The successor to John Piper at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis this week resigned in what appears to be a major shake-up at the church amid allegations of toxic and abusive leadership.
Piper’s successor, Jason Meyer, is the fourth pastor to resign from Bethlehem in the past four months.
“At Bethlehem . . . there’s harm being done,” Pickering said. “There’s unethical behavior. There’s domineering. There’s bullying. . . . cultural, damaging behavior that’s being done, and has been done, for a long time.”
In a statement from Pickering that elders read to the congregation last Sunday, Pickering further explained:
“I have seen several congregants (current and former), elders (current and former), and a former administrative assistant profoundly mistreated by elders in various ways. I have also seen leadership act in ways I would describe as domineering. I have also seen patterns of deception among our elders that are deeply concerning. I have tried on several occasions since early 2020 to speak up to others about these patterns of behavior. Increasingly in 2021, especially and intensely since March, I, too, have experienced what I would call bullying behavior. It is now clear to me that it is best for everyone for me to resign.”
Doesn’t look too good.
According to Kyle J. Howard, a preacher and racial and spiritual trauma counselor, the pastors’ exodus follows a push for reform at Bethlehem regarding the way the church treats minorities and women.
Howard said that in January 2019, Bethlehem brought him in to teach a full-day, staff intensive on racial trauma in the church.
Howard also attended an all-minority dinner with congregants that Pickering had arranged, according to Janice Perez Evans, a former member of Bethlehem who’s half Latina.
Uh oh, maybe too hasty of a conclusion there.
He added that prior to coming to Bethlehem, he had spoken with several Black pastors in Minneapolis, who all referred to Bethlehem as a “white church within a Black space that doesn’t actually engage . . . or relate to the Black community.” Howard said he also had spoken with several people who had been negatively impacted by John Piper’s theology of “marital permanence,” a theology maintaining that divorce is never justified, even in cases of abuse.
Ah yes, telling people that divorce is a sin is “negatively impacting” others.
Shortly after Howard’s intensive, Evans said she and several others proposed to the elders that the church establish a task force to examine whether the system at Bethlehem was racially biased. One of the main concerns, Evans said, was that few minorities sat on Bethlehem’s Elder Council. At the time, four of the 40-member Elder Council were minorities, she said.
Evans described the meeting as “excruciating,” saying the elders grilled both her and others about the proposal. Yet after the meeting, the elders commissioned a “Racial Harmony Task Force,” which Evans said she co-led with Pastor Meyer.
“It will probably go down in my life as one of the sweetest times I’ve seen the Holy Spirit come and work,” Evans said of her experience working with other task force members. “There was such a unity—and it wasn’t in a sense like we all agreed on everything. But it was safe in the sense that we were able to have disagreements as team members and talk through it.”
However, Evans said during this time, she began hearing from congregants and students at Bethlehem College and Seminary that elders were speaking against her and other task force members.
Pickering said he heard other elders express that they felt the task force had “Marxist” and “woke” tendencies, and possibly was driven by Critical Race Theory—a controversial academic movement seeking to explain issues of race and justice.
“That’s fear-mongering,” Evans said. “That wasn’t what drove us. We’re reading Scripture. We’re reading the Word. And we’ve been trained by all of you (the elders).”
Evans said she and the members of the task force put in over 800 hours researching the dynamics at Bethlehem, as well as other churches that had successfully become multi-ethnic. She said in the summer of 2019, the task force presented its 85-page report to the elders. (Evans said the task force had wanted to present the report directly to the congregation, but the elders insisted that the report go directly to them.)
Yup, now I’m beginning to side with the elders on this. Churches don’t have to be multi-ethnic to effectively serve God. There’s tons of one type of group Churches (e.g. Orthodox Churches for certain ethnic or nation groups, black or asian Churches, Spanish or certain language speaking Churches, etc.) Sure, some or many people prefer that they do, but when they’re trying to do it under the guise of CRT or any other feminist and woke philosophies that’s a no go.
Of course, the other people said they weren’t doing it under the guise of CRT and such, but in general focusing on these things even in good faith generally produces the exact same result. It is a distraction from the gospel. It’s imputing the “virtue” of multi-culturalism from feminism and adding it to the Bible.
I’m not saying there are no issues at the Church when we don’t know the whole story, but it looks like their Church was infiltrated and influenced from within by worldly philosophies. Aaron Renn also had an article on Jason Meyer’s teaching on leadership abuse which appears to demonstrate that Meyer pulled his teaching straight from the Duluth model and passed it off as Biblical. Ironically, Kathy Keller is a severe abuser under that model when she threw the expensive china and tried to pass it off as a “godly tantrum.”
“It should be alarming when you have a multitude of pastors or leaders leave all within a very short period of time,” Howard said. “But what I would want to caution us from is to not only look at the power figures but to recognize that these leaders are the overflow of a congregation loss. There have been numerous people who have left that church, especially minorities, and . . . a lot of women, a lot of battered wives . . . (who) are still healing from that space.”
The sin of “not being multi-cultural.” While I agree with Piper that marriage is permanent, Piper seems to not cue in on 1 Corinthians 7:10-11a — To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. — that separation may be an option especially if there is a continued pattern of physical violence without evidence of change.
On the other hand, when you start to compromise with the world some it’s almost to be expected that you’re going to get more people who agree with the world coming to your Church. Eventually you’re going to have to fight with them once they want to keep on doing things related with the world and you won’t go there. Then they’ll pass off your fight against not doing things of the world as “fear mongering” and “abuse” and “domineering” and “bullying.” Stating the Biblical view of marriage is permanent and divorce as a sin is suddenly “negatively impacting” people and considered abuse. If that’s the case, then any of God’s commands can be warped into a sin if someone feels like they’re being “negatively impacted.”
All in all, it appears the main lesson to be learned from this is don’t let any of that garbage into the Church in the first place and stop taking “virtue” lessons from the feminism and culture.